On a typical sunny day in Perth, Theo Venter woke up and drove to work, for “just another day”. Little did he know that on this day, one decision would change his life forever.
Theo was an electrical live line linesman and has worked on high voltage powerlines for 23 years. On just another day, he was working to repair a power pole which had been struck by lightning. After having trouble loosening a bolt on the cross-arm of the pole, Theo made the split-second decision to remove his gloves so that he could get a better grip on the bolt. He chose to ignore that voice in his head telling him this was a bad decision, and proceeded without the protection of his safety gloves. Loosening the bolt caused the insulator to fall away and on trying to catch it, Theo’s hand came into contact with the 22,000 volt power line.
Theo was rushed to hospital to begin the fight of his life. He is the only known person to survive a 22,000 volt electric shock while working on overhead powerlines. He had significant burns to his hands and body, and endured numerous surgeries and intense physical therapy to re-learn everyday tasks, that so many of us take for granted. His recovery however, was not just physical. He went into a deep depression and had to deal with the emotional turmoil that came with making a decision that day to take a shortcut, which compromised his safety, and nearly cost him his life.
This is the story that around 100 of our field based Trade Skill Workers (TSW) listened to on Monday, as a powerful reminder on the importance of work safety, especially in our industry. Employees from our metro depots at Marleston and Elizabeth attended, as well as from our regional depots at Port Augusta and Mt Gambier. There were also guests from ElectraNet, whose company own the infrastructure our employees work on daily, to maintain the assets.
While our intention for this presentation was not to upset people, Theo’s story does come as a very harsh reminder about the importance of work place safety, and the reality of the outcome should you choose to ignore a procedure.
If you are familiarising yourself with Theo’s story today, we ask you to consider your day to day activities and ensure that you give serious attention to your safety, managing risks, calling out improvements or stopping the job if it is unsafe.
At Enerven safety is and will continue to be our unrelenting focus and our key driver to ensure we work safe and go home safe every day.